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In writing this compelling book, Andrew McCall has had to pose two questions, both of which have no definitive answers. When were the Middle Ages? And what constituted an underworld? It could be claimed, for instance, that the Middle Ages did not begin properly until the tenth or even the eleventh century, or indeed that they did not end, in England, until the sixteenth century.
Mr McCall, however, argues persuasively that the so called 'Dark Ages' were part and parcel of the Middle Ages, and that the coming of the Renaissance marks the furthest boundary. The underworld, in his view, comprised all those people who were either unwilling or unable to comply with the laws of society, the law of the land and the law of the Church.
The Medieval Underworld considers such sections of society as outlaws and brigands; homosexuals; heretics; witches; Jews; prostitutes; thieves; fraudulent beggars and vagabonds, both their activities and the punishments, often barbarously savage, which were meted out upon them by State and Church. But Mr McCall has, essentially, conjured up the atmosphere of a way of life which is both extraordinarily modern and yet totally of its period.